A new online system has been rolled out for travellers carrying medication into the UAE.
People bringing a variety of drugs into the country - whether it is for during a holiday stay or on their return to the country from overseas trips - now must complete an online registration to get the all-clear.
The revamped scheme for carrying prescribed and controlled drugs was unveiled at the recent Gitex technology conference by the UAE's Ministry of Health.
The UK government has updated its travel advice for British tourists planning to bring medication into the UAE in the wake of the development.
"Following changes in October 2018, the UAE Ministry of Health announced the requirement for all tourists and residents entering the UAE to complete an electronic form to obtain online approval to carry medication for personal use, prior to entering the country," said a statement issued by the UK Foreign Office.
But how exactly does the Ministry of Health’s Import of Personal Medication service work?
The National has put together a handy guide to explain everything we know about the new online system.
What exactly is the Ministry of Health’s Import of Personal Medication service?
Showcased at Gitex last week, the online system requires all tourists and residents to obtain approval online before bringing controlled drugs into the UAE.
Is this new?
People bringing in controlled drugs have been required to provide evidence for their prescription for some time, but the UK government has issued new advice concerning the online registration system.
How do you know which drugs you need to apply for permission?
By visiting the Ministry of Health website, which includes a list of medications that are controlled – medications you require permission for in the UAE - and banned.
How do you use the online system?
People need to first create a profile on the Ministry of Health website, then choose a user name and password.
Once users are logged on, they have to click on ‘new application,’ then select the Import button. After that they can select the button for Personal Use Drugs then input the details of the patient, including their name, nationality, an Emirates ID number, their address in the UAE, country of residence, mobile number, email, date of arrival and date of departure.
After that, they can add the details of the medication, including the batch number, trade name and active ingredients. The system also requires a copy of the prescription and a letter from your doctor stating you require the medication.
How long does it take?
Once all fields are filled in and the documents are uploaded, the drugs department then considers the request and issues approvals where appropriate within five working days, according to the MOH website.
What sort of a reaction has there been?
There has been widespread concern among residents, particularly those with relatives who take prescription medication and are due to visit the UAE soon.
The subject has been discussed on numerous social networking pages, including the British Expats Dubai Facebook page.
“I’ve started to complete the online form and had to give up when it came to completing the info about my medications,” said one user of the page.
“It needs batch numbers and name of the ingredients as well as the strength, dosage manufacturers name and all that before uploading doctor’s certification and prescription.
“It is such a lot of hassle for EU prescription medications for hypertension and thyroid which, in my case, can be bought in a Dubai pharmacy. I think I’ll just buy them in Dubai.”
What are those who have completed the process said about it?
It has not all been bad news. A number of people have spoken positively about the process.
Svetia Deshais applied for permission to bring in medication on behalf of her mother-in-law, who takes lithium among other psychiatric controlled medications.
She could not produce a letter from her relative's doctor due to time constraints, and only had the details of the medication and prescription. But she still received the permission to bring in the medication.
“They approved it without this documentation, which was excellent,” said Ms Deshais, who lives in Abu Dhabi.
“My husband got the permission and jumped on the plane three hours later with his mother.
“She did not have to produce the certificate, but a passenger behind her was stopped and asked to open their case, said Ms Deshais.